I always feel kind of bad.
If you're a writer, especially one who does any kind of personal writing, maybe you understand. I always feel sort of bad that I don't have anything to say. Well, maybe not anything, but not anything worth reading. I, along with just about everyone in the country who has ever put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, wrote pages of regrettable words in the days following 9/11. It all sucked, every last word of it. Sucked hard. I didn't want to add my own mediocrity to the stream of what was already making people become complacent about a man leaping off a freaking burning building, so those pages never saw the light of day. I think I threw them out last time we moved.
Also, I don't have anything special to add. I can add my own snippets, I suppose: How I got choked up (though I never would have expected it of myself) at a patriotic song the radio played the next day, interspersed with a speech from Bush. How I idiotically asked a store clerk, on September 11, 2002, for the date. I didn't know anyone directly involved in the tragedy, but I know a couple of people who had close friends die that day.
Of course, like everyone, I have my own where-were-you-when story. I was working the overnight shift at a factory that makes small explosive products (which is much less exciting than it sounds). I was a trainer/sometime supervisor, so my "overnight shift" was 6:30 p.m. to 8 or 9 the next morning. Also, I had just discovered I was pregnant and certain issues relating to that had their own attendant stresses. I worked/barfed/worked/worked/worked/barfed/drove home/barfed/tried to sleep/barfed/actually slept/got up/barfed/drove in/started over. That was it, every day. So I didn't get much news during that period in my life. It was because of this, I assume, that the first question my friend asked when he called that morning was "Where in New York does your family live?"
It was my first day off in about two weeks, and after I had a nap (or maybe before; I don't actually remember that part), I was going to meet a friend of mine. I was kind of excited, and it was silly. I had started to tell a few people about my pregnancy (mainly my boss, in case he wondered what the hell was wrong with me; and a guy I picked up before work one evening when he wondered why we had to pull over RIGHT NOW), but I hadn't told anyone from my "old" life* -- the circle of friends I had before I went crazy, basically. I couldn't tell the person I wanted to tell the most (my husband, who was then my ex and not yet my again-boyfriend) because, well, I just couldn't. But I had managed to decide to tell another good friend (who was an ex, had been my husband's best friend, and would briefly become an again-boyfriend -- come on, you have these things too). He was calling to invite me to that lunch. We were going have ribs. (Damn, did I crave ribs.) And I was going to get to tell someone who knew me. I felt good about that.
"New York? Why?" I asked. My brain was already falling asleep, and I didn't really get it.
"Have you seen the news today?"
I turned it on. Of course, no further discussion was necessary. There was the somber-faced announcer. The ten million tickers going in different directions as if statistics and sheer volume of partial information would alleviate the pain. The two planes crashing into the two towers over and over again. A guy leaped from one of them.
I didn't really take it in much, right then. My family is from Upstate (read: not New York City) New York, so that was OK, as far as I knew. I had a few friends in New York, but I didn't think they went near the towers. I didn't really know, actually. And the guy wasn't telling us anything new.
And we went out to eat. I'm still not sure how OK that is. But we'd said and felt all we really could about it, and the immediacy of it had somehow prevented it from sinking in all the way. We still had this one day that we'd managed to eke out a lunch together. We still both had crap in our lives to bitch about. We liked the ribs. Hated the dessert. The televisions in the restaurant had the coverage on. We didn't watch it much.
Three months previously, I'd gotten myself up shit creek without a paddle -- hell, I'd lopped off my hands. That day, I finally told someone whose opinion mattered about it. Exactly six months from that day, my son would be born to much drama, pain, and joy. I hadn't even begun to deal with all the everyday, mundane drama in my own little bubble. How could I possibly wrap my brain around the almost 3,000 lives lost that day and the millions of lives it would directly influence?
See? That's why I never wrote about 9/11. I'm a self-centered little shit.
But I did cope, eventually, with both my own troubles and the nation's. I got emotionally invested. I cried, a little. Wrote a lot. Barfed, though I'm pretty sure that was related to my physical condition. Made jokes at completely inappropriate times.
One of the things Bush said in the speech that was so sentimentally patriotic it would be mocked at any other time -- and one of the things I think everyone unequivocally supported -- was (and I'm paraphrasing here) that we have to move on, remember the little things in our lives too. We can't let this define us. I think that's what I was trying to do, in my own way. I was trying not to let working at a job I kind of hated define me. I was trying not to let being the Rebellious Daughter define me. I was trying not to let unwed pregnancy define me. And I sure wasn't going to let some asshole mass murderers define my one available day of real life in ages.
Eight years later, this morning, my son and I laid in bed together, in that sublime in-between time when you don't quite remember what day or time or anything it is, just that you're together, he's already seven and a half, for goodness sake, his hair smells like coconuts, and you're happy. Then we fought about his homework. Then we made up. As he sucked my cheek in in a overenthusiastic goodbye kiss, I saw a ring of stuffed red, white, and blue paper-bag turkeys along the school's perimeter fence. (Were they trying to be patriotic and get a jump on Thanksgiving? Who knows.) They were interspersed with red, white and blue streamers and balloons. I remembered. David did too. I got a little choked up. Then, he punched my butt and yelled, "Poopdeck!"
Little things and big things.
I know two people with birthdays on this day. I never know how to wish them a happy birthday without sounding like I'm forgetting to remember for a moment -- but still, who forgets about birthdays? I bet some people do. I bet they get less "Happy Birthdays" than just about anyone. It's too bad.
I'm going to hit "Publish Post" now, before I have time to re-evaluate this round of words and navel-gazing, or be embarrassed that I talked about gastrointestinal issues, or even obliquely deprecate myself any further. Because I think that, at the very least, as with so many other things on the exact same day, a little distance has deepened some things, eased others -- helped.
*Except for my mom, of course, who was as awesome and supportive as I expected she would be.